Category Archives: reviews

The Squirrel and the Dragonfly by Brenda W. Huddleston Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young squirrel takes it upon himself to help an injured Dragonfly, and stirs up a friendship neither of them saw coming in author Brenda W. Huddleston’s “The Squirrel and the Dragonfly”.

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The Synopsis

This early reader story follows a squirrel named Liam and a Dragonfly named Sophia who have an accidental meeting in the woods. Realizing Sophia is in trouble and needs his help, Liam jumps into action. When Liam gets his forest friends to help rescue Sophia, the adventure proves to be an unlikely but lasting friendship for all of them.

These creatures of nature teach us valuable lessons about the importance of honoring our differences, especially when someone needs our help.

Parents, grandparents, educators, and kids will love The Squirrel & the Dragonfly and the vivid illustrations and positive messages for younger children.

The Review

The author did an incredible job of crafting a narrative that really felt both emotional and educational at the same time for younger readers. The almost cinematic quality of the artwork and imagery in this book not only drew the reader into the story but helped to keep a hopeful and lighthearted tone throughout the narrative.

To me, the theme the author explored was really the heart of this book. The lessons learned here of accepting our differences from one another and learning to not only live together but grow and help one another through life’s journey made this such a gripping story. The emotions the squirrel felt upon his friend’s evolution throughout the story made this such an engaging read, and the rich dynamics between the squirrel and the dragonfly made this a moving story.

The Verdict

Captivating, emotional, and thoughtful, author Brenda Huddleston’s “The Squirrel and the Dragonfly” is a must-read children’s book and illustrated story. The author did a brilliant job of weaving a narrative together that felt adventurous and kind all at once, and the theme of pushing aside our differences, acknowledging them, and moving forward together to not only befriend each other but help one another in their time in need was so profoundly moving to see come to life in this children’s book. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Brenda Huddleston discovered her love for writing late in life. After retiring from a long career in corporate management, she moved to the country where she finally had time to stop and smell the roses. During the summer, she would spend time with her three-year-old great-grandson discovering the joy and excitement of watching the animals interact and taking in the sheer beauty of nature.

Brenda lives in rural North Carolina on the Little River where there is abundance of nature and animals from which to choose the characters in her books.

She has been invited to read her books at libraries, daycare centers, and bookstores where she draws delight from watching the children’s faces light up with wonder as they hear the stories and ask questions.

Learning to enjoy reading at a young age can be an invaluable learning tool. Brenda feels strongly that her books must incorporate the essential lessons of childhood. Sharing, kindness, compassion, leadership, and diversity are easily understandable through the eyes of these cute animals.

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Sheli: A Shepherd and his Sheep by Deanna Danielle Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A sheep frustrated by the fact her shepherd seemingly ignores her at the back of her herd showcases to younger readers the plans and mindset of God and humanity itself in author Deanna Danielle’s “Sheli: A Shepherd and his Sheep”.

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The Synopsis

We may wonder at times why God allows brokenness to enter our heart. It has been my experience that when this happens, I am drawn closer to the Lord-our true shepherd-for strength, hope and joy. Sheli is the story of a faithful sheep who can not understand why her shepherd has put her in the back of her fold. As she notices and starts to help the sheep around her, she forgets her own worries and realizes her greater purpose. As you turn the pages of Sheli, may you experience the healing truth of God’s awesome grace and knowledge of the awe inspiring love that He so desperately awaits to give us all!

The Review

This was the best possible read for young children who are being raised in a Christian household and parents who wish to share their faith with their children at an early age. The unique narrative of the sheep and the shepherd is the perfect mirroring of the relationship between God and his believers, and the introspective tone the author strikes with this story for the children and parents reading it was quite insightful.

Two things that stood out to me were the author’s ability to showcase the need for us to find our own footing in life and help others as a theme in this story and the one-of-a-kind artwork that the story utilizes. The art itself reminded me of iconic faith-based art, almost mirroring the style of a Thomas Kincaid piece. Yet it was the theme the author utilized that made this story shine. While I am not particularly religious, the theme of helping and guiding others and finding the strength to stand on our own two feet, whether or not that is in an effort to gain the trust and guidance of God or to be self-sufficient, this theme works for a multitude of different readers.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, emotional, and engaging, author Deanna Danielle’s “Sheli: A Shepherd and his Sheep” is a must-read children’s book and Christian fiction read. The fast-paced narrative and the emotional pull of the sheep to his Shepherd will have younger readers clamoring for more. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

With over twenty years of Christian teaching background, Deanna Danielle has found that the best way to engage her students is through taking scripture and making it relatable in today’s context. She believes that a teacher is not so much responsible for what their students know, but more so for the seeds they plant to help them grow. She wrote Sheli to inspire and help readers discover the hidden treasures within themselves by using modern-day examples of faith.

Deanna Danielle’s previous books include An Ordinary Person, An Extraordinary Gift (recipient of a Mom’s Choice Award), and Christmas Morn. Her greatest joy comes from spending time in prayer and scripture and walking through life with her high-school sweetheart and the wonderful family and friends that God has so graciously blessed them with.

As co-founder and board-member of the non-profit Care Coalition, she has a strong belief in the power of Connecting those in NEED with those who CARE. You can find her blogs, books, video productions, coiffure work and Community outreach information at: https://deannadanielle.com

Kayla Travels in Her Dreams by Kyra Zeidan Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young girl devastated not to be traveling with her family for the holidays explores the world in her dreams, and soon discovers the true meaning of home in author Kyra Zeidan’s “Kayla Travels in Her Dreams”. 

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The Synopsis

A book about travel and the Love for Family

In the book Kayla Travels in Her Dreams a little girl is overcome with sadness when she learns that she won’t be able to travel with her family for the holidays. As she sits on her mom’s lap and cries herself to sleep, she dreams about those places she wanted to visit.

Despite her excitement for her adventures and travels, Kayla can’t help but miss her family. After visiting several exciting places around the world Kayla wakes up to find herself nestled in her mother’s arms. She is overcome by a warm feeling of happiness knowing that home is where her family is.

Kyra is honored to have the illustrations drawn by a neurodivergent artist. Kayla Travels in her Dreams is also available in a parents and educators kit along with an Arabic version ISBN  9781778119866.

The Review

This was a heartwarming and beautiful children’s book. The way in which the author was able to craft an atmosphere of adventure and exploration in the book was greatly felt on each page. The artist, Musa Abdul Aziz Hasan, did a wonderful job of showcasing the warmth and heart of this book and the characters within, as well as the wonderful settings that marked this globe-trotting adventure.

Yet to me, it was the emphasis the author put on themes like family and home that made this story shine so brightly. The inclusion of interactivity with children and their parents in the book’s final pages was great to see as well, but the way the story framed each adventure to a new land as a search for the child’s family allowed the message of hope and love for one’s family in a unique and bright way.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, engaging, and beautifully illustrated, author Kyra Zeidan’s “Kayla Travels in Her Dreams” is a must-read children’s boo. The perfect blend of holiday-set children’s books and special messages of family, the upbeat and emotional storytelling, and the warmth of the illustrations captured a one-of-a-kind reading experience no reader will want to miss with their child. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kyra Zeidan has helped many kids improve their language and literacy skills as a speech and language pathologist. Her passion for storytelling and desire to promote reading led to her first published book Kayla Travels in Her Dreams.

Kyra is honored to spread awareness on the talents and capabilities of neurodivergent people with the illustrations drawn by an artist on the autism spectrum.

As a mom of three, she has personally experienced the power of books and wants to support other parents in discovering the same. Kyra lives in Canada with her husband and 3 kids. You can read more about Kyra, her book and parents and educators kit on her website at: https://kyrakares.org

Something More! Essential Attitudes for Building the Life You Want (and avoiding mistakes along the way) by Amrit P. Kirpalani Kathleen Goolsby Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Authors Amrit P. Kirpalani and Kathleen Goolsby take readers on a journey to discover how to find their true purpose in life, unlearn the bad habits in life that block them from achieving that purpose, and how make the decisions necessary to earn that purpose in their book “Something More! Essential Attitudes for Building the Life You Want (And avoiding mistakes along the way)”. 

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The Synopsis

Do you keep thinking, “Is that all there is to life? I want something more!” Do you think you can’t achieve your best life? This book guides you in avoiding blind spots and challenges on your journey to fulfill your purpose and have a more meaningful life.

You may already have read other books discussing how to discover your purpose or calling in life. Or you may be just now starting to figure that out because you want to live your best life, a more meaningful life. Either way, Something More! provides what the other books lack: a guide to help you manage the emotional and decision-making challenges on your journey. And you absolutely need that information!

This book is like a journey map, guiding you in the way to achieve the life you desire, despite the challenges you’ll encounter along the way in your personal transformation journey. You’ll benefit from the insights shared from ordinary people, who share how they made the necessary decisions and career changes along the way and how they managed their self-doubts, past regrets, fears, and other inhibiting emotions so they could achieve their best life.

The book includes 16 Essential Attitudes and associated Do’s and Don’ts to help you avoid blind spots you didn’t know you have that can hinder your journey and to help you change the blind spots into attitudes and mindsets that will propel your journey. It also has practical tips for managing through change, despite any anxieties you may have. Most people are not comfortable with change; yet change is necessary to achieve a meaningful life based on your purpose.

It also provides all sorts of tips about making decisions, which is one of the most difficult aspects of a personal transformation journey to achieve the life you want.

It also shares insights about some self-defeating emotions and behaviors you may have that you need to “unlearn,” along with how your journey will evolve through several life stages.

Consider which of the following points describes where you are today:

  • You know what you want to pursue in life but feel stuck because of what seems like a lot of changes required to get to what you want to pursue.
  • You already started on your personal transformation journey but encountered challenges along the way that you didn’t know how to manage through; so now you feel stuck again or feel dispirited about trying to move forward.
  • You already discovered your purpose in life and started moving toward the dream of the life you want to live, but you weren’t a parent then and suddenly are now, or you weren’t handicapped then but are now.

Something More! is an insightful guide to support achieving your dream for your best life—no matter your fears, doubts, past regrets, or your age and well-being as you go through your journey from this point forward. I hope that, at this moment and with this book, you realize you now have all you need for your journey to a wonderful place—the fulfilling life you desire.

Buy it now and get started on transforming to your best life.

The Review 

This was such a well-written and incredibly put-together book. The authors did a brilliant job of presenting well-researched steps through interviews and studies to show the reader how they can accomplish their goals. The personable way the authors wrote the book out and the honesty they poured into their work allowed the reader to connect to the message and tone of the book much more. 

The thing that stood out to me immediately about the book was the way the authors presented the path that was taken to get to the point they found themselves rather than focusing on specific solutions. This allowed the book to feel more guidance based and less preachy in general and gave the reader a feeling that the lessons learned here and the goals we hope to see ourselves achieve are far more attainable than we thought possible. The way the authors presented this book as something to be used both for those seeking more out of life and those who have been impacted by negative events or thoughts who are seeking a means of pulling themselves back up was an inspiring direction to go.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, captivating, and engaging, authors Amrit P. Kirpalani and Kathleen Goolsby’s “Something More! Essential Attitudes for Building the Life You Want (And avoiding mistakes along the way)” is a must-read nonfiction and self-help read. The easy-to-follow steps the authors lay out balanced the personal stories and blend of quotes and anecdotes well, and the relatability of the authors themselves and their message helped keep readers invested long after they finished the book. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Amrit Kirpalani believes that most people want to make a difference in the world and that living your best life starts with discovering the “real you” and then using your uniqueness to contribute to the happiness of others. Amrit focuses on creating pathways to change and working with others to collectively make positive impacts in the world. He does this partly by advising community entities and nonprofits and serving on the boards of directors of various organizations. He also mentors entrepreneurs in successful mindsets and in how to avoid pitfalls in their new endeavors. And he advises leaders in Fortune 500 companies and other organizations in his role as CEO of NectarOM, one of two marketing consulting companies he founded. His favorite part of each day is when he spends time with his three daughters where the family lives in a suburb of Dallas, Texas.

Visit www.amritkirpalani.com to sign up for his monthly e-newsletter and see examples of the inspirational articles in the newsletters.

Kathleen Sassaman Goolsby misses a lot of sleep because she loves reading books (especially historical fiction and action-packed Westerns). When not reading, you’d find her playing Scrabble or enjoying the high-desert mountain scenery where she lives in New Mexico. She has a passion for helping others learn and does this through writing business, inspirational, and self-help books and articles. She has a B.A. in English from Friends University.

Follow Kathleen on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/kathleen-goolsby-5045a51).

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Paper Targets: Art Can Be Murder by Steve S. Saroff Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A young computer hacker hoping to get away from the men forcing him to engage in this criminal enterprise meets and falls in love with a young artist from Japan, and soon discovers she has dark secrets of her own in author Steve S. Saroff’s “Paper Targets: Art Can Be Murder”.

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The Synopsis

A drifter bails an artist out of jail. Then everything goes wrong.

Part Montana wilderness, part crime, ‘Paper Targets’ is a novel that simmers with questions about love and greed and then boils over at the collision of good and bad.

Enzi, a drop-out and runaway, becomes a criminal computer hacker who falls in love with Kaori, an artist from Tokyo. When Kaori confesses through her drawings to a double murder, Enzi questions everything he has ever done. But as Enzi tries to extricate himself from the men he has become indebted to, he is violently pressured to keep “pounding code.” While Enzi plans his escape, he is forced to look for answers about his past.

The Review

This was a brilliant blend of a noir thriller and artistic expression. The captivating setting, Big Sky country, provided the best juxtaposition of nature’s serene beauty clashing with mankind’s never-ending chaos and destruction. The atmospheric nature of the author’s writing style and the imagery it conjures up really fully brought the reader into the narrative.

One thing that always stands out to me as a reader is when an author is able to make the characters come to life in such a way that they feel like they could be standing in the room with you. That s what the author crafted here, doing an excellent job of highlighting their character development so that not only does the narrative shine, but the journey these two undergo is both complex and emotional, as well as dangerous and exhilarating. The troubled pasts they are both running away from hold answers to the clues of who they are and what their purpose is.

The Verdict

Thrilling, entertaining, and captivating, author Steve Saroff’s “Paper Targets” is a must-read noir thriller of 2022. The iconic and breathtaking imagery in the author’s writing style brought the Montana skies to life wonderfully, and the rich dynamics and balance of solid themes and exhilarating action made this one book I didn’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Steve Saroff is the host of the podcast Montana Voice, and the author of over 30 traditionally published short stories printed in Redbook and other national magazines. His available books include Paper Targets; The Long Line of Elk; and the forthcoming Mixed Drinks.

https://www.montanavoice.com/

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A Journey with Plato and My Monkey Towards Ground Zero by Khaled M. Issa Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Get ready to take a philosophical journey through one man’s self-reflection and accountability in author Khaled M. Issa’s “A Journey with Plato and My Monkey Towards Grand Zero”. 

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The Synopsis

Do you know your monkey? Do you truly know who you are or how you became so?

I was living in an illusion in the world that I thought I knew. I had painted such a great picture of myself, that I loved so much. My shortcomings and uncalled-for poor personal behaviors were always justified by either nature or by the presumed faults of others.

Then I met my monkey and we decided to take a journey together with Plato, representing knowledge and wisdom. We discovered that nature and people, most of the time, have nothing to do with our bad habits and poor behavior.

Join us in a journey of searching for the best version of ourselves by going back to ground zero. Then and only then shall we live the true essence of happiness, prosperity, and peace of mind.

The Review

This was such an insightful and thought-provoking read. The author did a fantastic job of crafting a book that brought a balance of almost memoir-style writing and self-help philosophy. The tone and creative imagery the author used to bring these ideas and concepts to life allowed the reader to connect even more to the author’s message and kept me hooked on the author’s story. 

The book’s strongest moments came when the author was delving into the heart of this book’s themes. The personal writing style reflected these themes, as the guide and message to readers honed in on the need to reflect and find ourselves and our place in the world. Rather than viewing the world solely as we see it, the importance of examining situations based both on our experiences and the realities of the situation is crucial. Rather than blaming outside forces for our failures or mistakes, it is important to take ownership of those mistakes and faults and grow from them. The exploration of multiple aspects of one’s personality, including the conscious and subconscious minds as separate entities, was an inspired choice to examine this topic.

The Verdict

Brilliant, captivating, and engaging, author Khaled M. Issa’s “A Journey with Plato and My Monkey Towards Grand Zero” is a must-read philosophy and self-help book. The thought-provoking themes and lessons the author discovered and imparted to the reader were momentous and will have readers going back to the author’s work over and over again throughout their lives. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Khaled M. Issa graduated in 1986 from the University of Missouri at Rolla with a degree in mechanical engineering and became a patent holder with Caterpillar Inc. in 1991. With over three decades of experience in business management and consultancy, Khaled was able to create a successful career based on analytical thinking and process reengineering. During this time, Khaled was dedicated and passionate about employee training and leadership development, which made a significant impact on many of his team members both personally and professionally. He has not only been a CEO and board adviser of several companies, but he is also a loving father of five and grandfather to seven.

https://www.austinmacauley.com/us/book/journey-plato-and-my-monkey-toward-ground-zero

Operation Mom: My Plan to Get My Mom a Life…and a Man by Reenita Malhotra Hora Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

A teenage girl in Mumbai desperate to follow her pop star idol decides to find her mom a man in an effort to steer her mother away from forcing her to meet regular guys and prepare for marriage in author Reenita Malhotra Hora’s “Operation Mom: My Plan to Get My Mom a Life…and a Man”.

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The Synopsis

Ila, a Mumbai-based teenager, is going nuts with Veena, her controlling, single mother who prevents her from stalking her pop idol, Ali Zafar. Veena wants her daughter to date real guys in the lead-up to finding a husband. But Ila decides that the only way to get her mom off her back is by finding her a boyfriend instead.

The Review

This was such a fun and unique take on the romantic comedy genre. The humor and wit that goes on with the protagonist and the characters around her highlight the unique setting and culture that the author brings the narrative into. The balance of lightheartedness and warmth the author brings into the atmosphere of the narrative was a great addition to the story.

Yet for me, it was the unique setting and powerful character dynamics that really sold this story. The way the author was able to incorporate so much of the culture and passion of the city of Mumbai into the narrative and give readers of this genre a unique location to become immersed in was inspiring to say the least. The emotional journey of a mother and daughter, both trying to do what’s best for the other while pursuing their own dreams, was both a fantastic mirroring of their personal journeys but showed the depth of these characters and how far we are willing to go to help someone we love, even if it doesn’t start off for the right reasons.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, fun, and entertaining, author Reenita Malhotra Hora’s “Operation Mom” is a must-read romantic comedy of the year. The heart of this unique setting and the way the characters and the culture they live in impact the journey they undertake to find love and purpose made this such a compelling story to get lost in. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Reenita is a founder, executive-level content, operations & marketing leader, and prolific writer. With multiple years of experience in media, entertainment, communications, tech/innovation and wellness industries in the USA and Asia, she grows organizations, ranging from early stage startups through mid-size businesses, through storytelling, creative marketing and business strategy. Reenita has written seven books – five non fiction and two fiction. She is the writer, anchor and executive producer of Shadow Realm and True Fiction Project podcasts and founder of the Chapter by episode fiction app. She has contributed to The Hindu, South China Morning Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN, Asian Investor, Times of India and National Geographic Kids, Cartoon Network Asia, Disney and more.

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Daughters of Teutobod by Kurt Hansen Review and Blog Tour

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

The lives and struggles of three different women through different eras of history are revealed in author Kurt Hansen’s historical fiction novel, “Daughters of Teutobod”. 

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The Synopsis 

Daughters of Teutobod is a story of love triumphing over hate, of persistence in the face of domination, and of the strength of women in the face of adversity.

Gudrun is the stolen wife of Teutobod, the leader of the Teutons in Gaul in 102 BCE. Her story culminates in a historic battle with the Roman army.

Susanna is a German American farm wife in Pennsylvania whose husband, Karl, has strong affinity for the Nazi party in Germany. Susanna’s story revolves around raising her three daughters and one son as World War II unfolds.

Finally, Gretel is the infant child of Susanna, now seventy-nine years old and a professor of women’s studies, a US senator and Nobel laureate for her World Women’s Initiative. She is heading to France to represent the United States at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of southern France, at the commemoration site where her older brother, who was killed in action nearby, is buried. The site is very near the location where the Romans defeated the Teutons.

The Review

As a history buff and advocate for feminism and equality in life, I loved this narrative. The balance of emotional storytelling and captivating and engaging character development was so great to see unfold in this story, and the vivid imagery the author deployed in this novel expertly brought the reader into these various periods of time.

Yet to me, what stood out the most was how immersive and adrenaline-fueled the narrative itself was as well as the settings of these different eras of time. The author did an incredible job of bringing these chaotic, violent, and brutal periods of history to life in a natural way, and yet honed in on the personal and quiet yet profound strength of the women that each era focused on. From the fight against enslavement against the Roman warriors to the staunch battle brewing within a German-American family at the height of WWII and how these two eras come weaving together in the more modern-day made this story shine so brightly.

The Verdict

Thoughtful, entertaining, and mesmerizing, author Kurt Hansen’s “Daughters of Teutobod” is a must-read historical fiction novel of 2022. The twists and turns these characters and their arcs take meld perfectly with the striking imagery the author’s writing utilizes and the strength and impactful journey of these women made this one story I didn’t want to put down. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Kurt Hansen is from Racine, Wisconsin, and has lived in Kansas, Texas, and Iowa. He has experience in mental health and family systems as well as in parish ministry and administration. He holds degrees in psychology, social work and divinity. Kurt now lives in Dubuque, Iowa with his wife of 44 years, Dr. Susan Hansen, a professor emerita of international business. Kurt is the author of Gathered (2019). Daughters of Teutobod is his second novel.

Website: https://www.authorkurthansen.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/revkurthansen

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Enjoy this Excerpt from Kurt Hansen’s “Daughters of Teutobod”

Chapter One

The smoke of the grist fires rose incessantly, grey black against the cloudy blue sky as the day meandered toward its middle hours. It was the season of harvest, and those konas who were able were out among the plantings, gleaning grain or digging turnips, carrots, or beets out of the black, loamy soil. Some ground grain into flour and some baked bread, while others tended the fires and the fleshpots. Still others were about the business of tanning hides, mostly of deer, raccoons, rabbits, or fox, occasionally from a bear. The smells of death intermingled with the breathing life and beating heart of the sveit.

Gudrun liked this time of day best. She grabbed another handful of golden wheatstalks, slicing off the grain heads with a strong whisking motion and dropping the grain into her tightly woven flaxen gathering bag. She paused for a moment, wiping the sweat from her brow with the back of her hand. The sun was bright today, making the air steamy. Gudrun looked out across the hills, down the valley, past the wooded glades where she could see dozens of other kǫngulls like her own, and she knew there were even more beyond the reach of her eyes. Most of the kǫngulls contained about 100 persons, but some had more. As she fixed her gaze closer, to the kǫngull where she lived, she could see the jungen, chasing one another, some wielding sticks or branches, others seeking to escape the assaults of their aggressors. The jungmädchen were variously helping their mothers with cooking or cleaning vegetables or sewing hides; the kinder simply hid in corners or clung to their mothers’ legs.

Several hours passed, and now the sun was receding, thankfully, because its blazing, yellow glare kept breaking through the billowing clouds all day, intensifying the laborers’ fatigue. Gudrun emptied her grain bag into the large, woven basket at the edge of the planting. The basket was filled to the brim, and as she plunged both hands into the basket, letting the harvested grain sift between her fingers, a smile of satisfaction softened her face. Filling up her basket all the way to the top was for her, a measure of the goodness of the day. She hoisted the heavy basket, glad for the leather strap she had fashioned to carry it. Before she designed the strap, two women were needed to carry the woven baskets—one on either side—especially when full. But Gudrun decided to cut a long strip from the edge of a tanned deer hide and, with a sharp bone needle she affixed the strap to her basket, allowing her to shoulder the entire weight by herself.

When she first showed her invention, one of the men—Torolf—chastised her for taking the piece of deer hide. He pushed her to the ground and threatened worse, but Teutobod intervened, bashing Torolf on the head with his club and sending him reeling. Teutobod, Gudrun’s mann, was the undisputed leader of their sveit, and he had been their leader long before he took her for his wife, ever since the sveit’s earliest days in Jutland. He ordered that all the grain baskets be fashioned with straps for carrying, and Gudrun won the admiration of all the konas (and even some men). Torolf avoided her from then on.

As evening approached, it was time to prepare for the return of the männer. Most hunting excursions were a one-day affair, bringing in meat for perhaps a few days at best. But as the harvest season proceeded, the männer would leave for days at a time, seeking to increase supplies for the long winter to come. This foray had lasted nearly a week, but Gudrun was told by Teutobod to expect their return before seven suns had passed, and she shared this information with the some of the other konas. By now all the kongulls were preparing for the männer coming home.

As the sun began to set, the konas started pulling out skins from their bærs, unfolding them and laying them on the ground about the fire pits. The flesh pots were stirred and stoked, and a hearty stew was prepared with deer meats, mushrooms, yellow beans, potatoes, turnips and carrots, seasoned with salt and fennel and black peppercorns. Flasks of beer that had been cooling in the stream all day were brought to each firepit and hung on a stake which had been plunged in the ground for that purpose. Various dinner ware made from carved bone or fashioned out of wood or clay were laid out. All was in readiness.

An aura of anticipation and anxiety tumbled around the kǫngull, shortening tempers as the waiting lengthened. Finally, about an hour after the sun had fully set, the sound of the ram’s horn distantly blasted out its announcement: Die männer komme! The jungen were hustled away to the kinderbærs. One never knew the mood that might accompany the hunters when they returned, and things could and often did get ugly. The konas sat or knelt respectfully beside the firepits, twitching, nervously swatting insects away from the food, inhaling excitement and breathing out fear. 

Soon the rustling of leaves and the snap of twigs underfoot grew louder and closer until the shadows brought forth the whole troop of men, bustling in to the kǫngull, carrying or dragging the meat they had procured, pounding their chests, howling, pulling on their scraggly hair or beards, banging the ground with clubs or spears and smelling of the hunt and of the forest. Similar sounds of triumph and dominion could be heard resonating throughout all the kǫngulls below as the männer clamored in across the entire sveit.

Here in Gudrun’s kǫngull, the konas kept their gaze to the ground, their eyes fixed on the fire, and as the hunters’ swagger slowly abated, one by one the konas silently lifted their plates above their heads, each looking up to her mann as they all found their respective places. Once the providers were all reclining on skins beside the firepits, the konas stood and began to prepare plates of food for them. The men ate loudly, hungrily, slurping the stew from the lips of the bowls and using hunks of bread to grasp chunks of meat and vegetables.

The food having been consumed, skinflasks of beer soon followed, and before long the sated belches and grunts of the eaters gave way to boisterous banter, the proud providers reliving the thrill of killing a stag or the bravery of facing a bear. The konas scraped up the leftovers to take to the huts for themselves and the children, after which the cleanup tasks commenced. The women worked in groups of three or four, tending two large boiling pots to soak the dinnerware until all remnants of the food floated up to the top and were skimmed off. A little more soaking, then all the dinnerware was stacked and stored for the next use. Gudrun, along with two other konas, took the job of drying the cleaned dishes, swinging a dish in each hand to move the air. They playfully swung the wet plates or cups at one another, spritzing each other in the process and giggling like little meyas.

This being the end of a prolonged hunting venture, the children were tucked in early in the kinderhäusen, and the konas prepared to receive their husbands. For those unlucky enough to have brutish men, their wifely duties were not at all pleasant. Others were more fortunate. Gudrun was happy to be among the latter, hoping only that the beer ran out before Teutobod’s love lust. She retreated to the bær she shared with her husband, glad for the privacy his role as leader provided. This entire kǫngull was comprised of the sveit’s leadership and their skuldaliðs, and as such it claimed luxuries not generally known throughout the sveit by underlings. The leaders camped furthest upstream, and therefore got the cleanest water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. The leaders claimed individual space for themselves and their vifs, while others down below had to share living space with two or three other skuldaliðs. 

Gudrun removed her garments and lay nude on the soft deerskins in her bær to prepare herself for her husband. Covering herself with another skin, she began to move her hands over her thighs and abdomen, softly, back and forth, her rough-skinned fingertips adapting to their more delicate uses. She moved a hand upward, swirling around her breasts and throat, teasing each nipple at the edges, holding back from contacting the most delicate flesh.

Her stroking and probing continued, a bit more urgently as she felt her breath rise and grow more heated. The muscles in her abdomen began to pulse, and as her hands found the sensitive spot between her legs, she felt the moisture beginning to flow inside her. When she was young Gudrun had learned from the older konas how to help her husband in this way, to ease his entrance and hasten his joy. Along the way, over the years, she also learned to enjoy herself more in the process. As the instinctive rocking motion in her pelvis began, she eased her manipulations, not wanting to be prematurely excited. Breathlessly, she looked toward the bær’s entrance, hoping Teutobod would hurry.

The Job Hunting Book by Ian Allen Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Author Ian Allen shares a step-by-step guide to readers on the best practices to create the best chances at finding work, especially that first graduate job, in his book “The Job Hunting Book”.

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The Synopsis

Searching for your first graduate job is an exciting time, but can often leave you feeling lost and frustrated. So here’s a secret— it’s not all about you! Getting a job interview is also about your employer. Added to this, the tools that recruiters and job seekers use have changed, and to be successful, you’ll need:

* An online and in-person profile for yourself before you even approach an employer.
* A job application that solves an employer’s problems, and fulfils their hopes and dreams.
* To use technology as the cornerstone of your job seeking process.

In this practical, step-by-step job hunting guide, industry veteran Ian Allan will become your personal career guidance mentor. You’ll be given a foolproof process for writing a resume and cover letter that will go straight to the top of the “yes” pile, and a method for job hunting that includes identifying your skills gaps—and what to do about them.

Plus, Ian will teach you useful strategies for finding the four out of five dream jobs that aren’t advertised, and share actionable tips on how to build relationships so you get that job interview.

Draw on Ian’s decades of experience as an employee, employer and consultant to ensure you become an ideal candidate and land the job you’ve always wanted.

Bonus content: FREE access to four hours of video training and job hunting resources, including LinkedIn profile tips, downloadable templates, and real-world examples of successful job applications.

The Review

This was a well-written and incredibly researched book. The author did a fantastic job of showcasing a clear line of connection between a person getting a job by identifying with the employer themselves. The balance of personable and professional writing styles really elevated this book. It allowed the subject to shine brightly without getting lost in other areas of discussion in the job market. 

The clear-cut guide and interactive element of the book that challenges the reader to utilize these steps for themselves were inspiring to read and watch unfold on the pages of this book. The way the author delved into the impact on the job market these last few years have had, from how COVID-19 has changed how we work experience to the importance of having an online presence for many employers, really made the book feel relevant and accessible to a wide range of readers who are seeking employment in this new world.

The Verdict

Thought-provoking, engaging, and insightful, author Ian Allen’s “The Job Hunting Book” is a must-read nonfiction book of 2022. The educational value alone will keep readers invested. Still, the relatable and thoughtful way the author approaches the subject with such honesty and conviction will have readers eager to engage with the author’s guidance and practices and in the field looking for work ASAP. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Life has a way of throwing up challenges. Mine happened in my late teens. In the final year of my apprenticeship a nasty workplace accident forced me to rethink my career.

Fast forward to my early 30s, I’d been a furniture restorer, a furniture removalist, a bingo caller, a pedestrian accident researcher, a condom tycoon (for some reason that failed to impress my girlfriend’s mother), a software engineer, and a lecturer and researcher in spatial science. I won jobs, sometimes due to my tenacity, but looking back, mostly through word of mouth.

In the 90s I started a consultancy and did spatial modelling for universities, the water industry, all levels of the Australian government and the UN. Magically, consulting work and now my employees came via word of mouth.

So, after 40 years as an employee and as a consultant, I’ve learnt that the secret sauce for getting work is relationships, especially professional relationships. These need not be insincere or manipulative. Opportunities naturally arise for those who make the effort. The trick to giving relationships their best chance of yielding work is to put yourself in the other person’s boots and empathize with their problems, their hopes and their dreams. Getting work becomes a simpler exercise when you’ve customized your offering to meet someone’s needs. And that idea is essentially what I’m on about.

I’m a teacher at heart. Now, in my 50’s, I can look back on my career as an employee looking for work, as a consultant winning work, and as an employer hiring and firing. The guidance I write was not around for me when I was starting out. In the absence of a mentor, I had to work it out for myself. And so here are some of my thoughts for you.

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